Sunday, 27 January 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

My love of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker meant that anticipation levels were high for Zero Dark Thirty.  The fact that it starred Jessica Chastain added to the excitement.
As I do not have access to CIA Intel I cannot say for sure if Zero Dark Thirty is an accurate account of the hunt for Bin Laden.
PLOT:  CIA agent Maya (Jessica Chastain) has been tasked with finding the location of Osama Bin Laden however she is hampered by a never ending stream of false leads and changing political attitudes   Maya eventually finds a suspicious compound in which she believes Bin Laden is living.  After convincing her superiors Joseph (Kyle Chandler) and George (Mark Strong/hairpiece) to launch an assault on the compound Maya must wait to see if Osama Bin Laden has finally been captured.  END PLOT
The hunt for Bin Laden was a slow process with Zero Dark Thirty spanning the course of (around) nine years.  The film is broken into chapters with each section having its own label and story to tell.  I didn't mind the labels but it made the storytelling feel slightly choppy.
There is a shift in tone in the final act as the film practically ignores Maya and focuses on the raid of Bin Laden’s compound.  The raid lasts for a good 30mins and is filled with tension from start to finish.
In a very short space of time Jessica Chastain has become a very firm favourite.  I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Chastain in many films but I can already see that she has a skill of being the best thing in each picture.  Chastain’s Maya looks permanently exhausted but relentlessly continues in her search for Bin Laden.
Chastain is given a few scenes in which to shine but her performance is more understated than I expected it to be.  I expect her to win the Oscar but there is a part of me that can’t help but think that Naomi Watts got the opportunity to do a lot more with much less screen time.
Jason Clarke’s character Dan is more interesting than Maya.  Dan is responsible for the interrogation of the prisoners and flits between torture and compassion with a weary jobsworth's attitude.  Clarke, like Chastain, escaped from the god awful Lawless with his dignity intact and once again he has proved to be a very capable supporting player.
The rest of the cast – Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler and Joel Edgerton are all fine with what little they are given to do.  There are plenty of other familiar faces but they come and go without ceremony and I cannot remember any of their characters' names.  Zero Dark Thirty has a surprisingly large and very underdeveloped cast with the minor characters being brushed to the side and forgotten about without a second thought.

A special mention must be given to Reda Kateb who played Ammar, Dan’s torture victim, as he was on the wrong end of some very intense scenes.
Zero Dark Thirty has some dark moments and scenes with waterboarding and humiliation will always be uncomfortable viewing.  The torture of Ammar was hard to watch because the scenes felt real and the performances of Clarke and Kateb were so strong.  It was violent but it got the balance between uncomfortable and engaging perfect.
It is hard to believe that the budget of Zero Dark Thirty was only $40million (IMDB) as the film felt like a much larger production.  The cinematography was similar to The hurt Locker and looked purposefully drained and sapped of colour.
Zero Dark Thirty is a slow burner but not one second of the 157min (IMDB) running length is felt as I was engrossed from start to finish.  It is an excellent film and deserves another watch – but the length and content means that it will not be a regular visitor to the dvd player.  8.5/10.

1 comment:

  1. Just a well constructed film but we are kept at arms lenght from all the characters throughout. The raid does totally feel like a seperate film doesn't it?